Kavanaugh Advances Amid Toxic Atmosphere
October 5, 2018
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senate Votes to Advance Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

‘So, today is a pivotal day in the nomination process of this excellent judge. But it is also a pivotal day for the Senate, and for the ideals of justice that have served our nation so well for so long.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh:

“It was 88 days ago that President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is a nominee of the highest caliber -- a brilliant legal mind and an accomplished jurist with a proven devotion to the rule of law. Today, the Senate has the opportunity to advance his nomination. Every one of us will go on the record with one of the most consequential votes you ever cast in the Senate. The stakes are always high for a Supreme Court nomination. But, colleagues, the extraordinary events of recent weeks have raised them even higher this time.

“When we vote later this morning, we will not only be deciding whether to elevate a stunningly-qualified judge to our highest court. Not anymore. Not after all this. The United States Senate will also be making a statement. We will either state that partisan politics can override the presumption of innocence. Or we will reaffirm that, in the United States of America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

“We will either state that facts and evidence can simply be brushed aside when politically inconvenient, and signal that media bullying and mob intimidation are valid tactics for shaping the Senate. The mob can attack, and the Senate caves. Or we will stand up and say that serious, thoughtful, fact-based deliberation must still define this body. We will either give notice that totally uncorroborated allegations are now, officially, enough to destroy an American’s life. Or we will declare that our society cannot, must not, will not, set the bar so low.

“So, today is a pivotal day in the nomination process of this excellent judge. But it is also a pivotal day for us here in the Senate, and for the ideals of justice that have served our nation so well for so long. Let’s step back, and sample a few of the choice moments that the Senate and the American people have been treated to during the disgraceful – absolutely disgraceful -- spectacle of recent weeks. The very night Judge Kavanaugh was announced as the president’s choice, we heard the junior senator from Oregon declare that this nominee would pave the path to tyranny. His audience? Crowds of far-left protesters, still filling in the blanks on their picket signs. They weren’t quite sure who the nominee was going to be yet.

“We have heard the junior senator from New Jersey describe Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination as a great moral struggle in which there are really just two camps. Quote: You’re either complicit in the evil… or you are fighting against it. More recently, we’ve heard the junior senator from Hawaii argue that her personal disagreement with Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy meant he deserved less of a presumption of innocence when it came to allegations of misconduct. That’s right, from a member of the Judiciary Committee: Due process? Only if you think like she does, apparently.

“And even more recently, we saw the junior Senator from Rhode Island hold forth with great confidence, offering his expert interpretations of goofy jokes in a high-school yearbook from the early 1980s. That was incredibly enlightening.  Innocent jokes? Beer-drinking references? Oh, no. Our colleague was quite positive there were other hidden or sinister meanings at play. Until, of course, a number of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates set him straight earlier this week. Stop and consider these snapshots. The absurdity. The indignity. This is our approach to confirming a Supreme Court justice? This is the Senate’s contribution to public discourse?

“Before the ink had dried on Justice Kennedy’s retirement, our Democratic colleagues made it perfectly clear what this process would be about: Delay, obstruct, and resist. And before the ink had dried on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, colleagues across the aisle -- including Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee -- were racing to announce they’d made up their minds and were totally opposed to his confirmation.

“Mere hours after Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, my friend the Democratic Leader promised -- quote -- I will oppose him with everything I’ve got. Hours after he was nominated. It was thus abundantly clear that his number one political goal was to defeat the nomination by any means necessary. It was right there from the beginning. A clear declaration, plain as day. Nothing -- nothing -- could get most Democrats to consider this nominee with an open mind. It would be delaying tactics, obstruction, and the so-called resistance until the final vote was called.

“For a few weeks, their efforts played out along lines that have sadly become somewhat ordinary around here. There were excuses for delay that fell flat. There were gross distortions of Judge Kavanaugh’s record that were batted down by outside fact-checkers. And there were all the usual phony apocalyptic pronouncements that are shouted whenever a Republican president dares to nominate a Supreme Court justice -- hostile to women, hostile to vulnerable people, hostile to workers. The same old tricks. The same old playbook.

“But here was the problem: The old plays weren’t working. The distortions were being drowned out by the facts. Senators received and reviewed more pages of background materials on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination than for every previous Supreme Court nomination combined. We read Judge Kavanaugh's twelve-year record of judicial rulings from our nation’s second-highest court -- 300-plus opinions. We heard sworn testimony and written accounts from hundreds of character witnesses, from all stages of Judge Kavanaugh’s life and career. And the picture painted by these facts was nothing like the caricature. So it was clear the old tactics weren’t working. The resistance demanded more. Try something new, they said.

“Well, we all know what happened next. Uncorroborated allegations of the most sensitive, most serious sort were quickly sharpened into political weapons. One such allegation, shared by Dr. Ford in confidence with the Democrat side of the Judiciary Committee, somehow – mysteriously -- found its way into the press. Well, Chairman Grassley immediately set out on a sober, focused search for the truth. The Committee collected testimony, organized a new hearing, and most recently, asked for the supplemental FBI background investigation. Judge Kavanaugh’s seventh. Seventh FBI investigation.

“By any fair standard, the facts -- the actual facts -- proved to be straightforward. No corroborating evidence, none, was produced to support any of the allegations leveled against Judge Kavanaugh. No corroborating evidence from the FBI inquiry, or from anywhere else. Nothing. Well, that wasn’t enough for our Democratic colleagues, of course. The facts were not exactly the point. When the very FBI investigation for which they’d been clamoring turned up no new evidence, Democrats moved the goalposts yet again.

“I believe the latest story is that the whole investigation is invalid because individuals who had only recently been told -- secondhand or thirdhand -- about nearly 40-year-old allegations weren’t treated as essential witnesses. Let me say that again: the latest story is that the whole investigation is invalid because individuals who had only recently been told -- secondhand or thirdhand -- about nearly 40-year-old allegations weren’t treated as essential witnesses. Nevermind that they didn’t actually witness anything. Let’s be clear, these are not witnesses. These are people supposedly in possession of hearsay they first heard 35 years after the supposed fact. What nonsense.

“The people whom Dr. Ford claimed were witnesses? They have spoken with the FBI.  We know that because they, through their attorneys, put out public statements saying so.  And what we know now is what we knew at this time last week: There is absolutely no corroborating evidence for these allegations. The same thing we heard a week ago. If there were, you bet we’d have heard about it. But there isn’t.

“Notwithstanding that, the leak of Dr. Ford’s letter -- in violation of her privacy and against her wishes -- opened the floodgates. The feeding frenzy was full on. The weaponization of her letter by the left led to a torrent of other, equally uncorroborated allegations. They were dumped on Judge Kavanaugh and his family. And, breathlessly, the media seized on them -- the more outlandish, the better.

“Americans were informed that Judge Kavanaugh masterminded violent drug gangs as a young teenager… until that accuser walked her story back. We were informed that Judge Kavanaugh beat someone up on a boat in a Rhode Island harbor… until that accuser totally recanted. We heard another tall tale of physical assault… until that account was thoroughly debunked by a sitting federal judge.

“And, yes -- we were informed that juvenile jokes in his high-school yearbook were actually sinister secret references. Oh, the Keystone Cops were on the case. And Senate Democrats cheered them on. They read parts of this uncorroborated, unbelievable mudslide into the Senate record. They cited them in an official letter, demanding that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination be withdrawn.

“Were they true? Well of course, that was quite beside the point -- so long as they were convenient. Every effort was made to ensure that the fact-free verdict of the mob and the media would win out over the actual evidence. Made sure the mob prevailed. But the uncorroborated mud, and the partisan noise, and the physical intimidation of Members here in the Senate will not have the final say around here. The Senate will have the final say.

“So, we’re almost at the end of the runway. The crosswinds of anger and fear and partisanship have blown strong, these past weeks. They have harmed a good man and his family. They’ve tarnished the dignity of our institution. But all of it can end today. The time has come to vote. The Senate stands on the threshold of a golden opportunity.

“We have the opportunity to advance the nomination of an incredibly well-qualified and well-respected jurist to a post that demands such excellence. We have the opportunity to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, where his distinguished service will make us and our nation proud for years to come. But we have the opportunity to do even more.

“Today, we can send a message to the American people that some core principles remain unfettered by the partisan passions of this moment. Facts matter. Fairness matters. The presumption of innocence is sacrosanct. The Senate has turned its back on these things before. But never for long, and never without deep regret. This institution does not look back proudly on the era of Joseph McCarthy. Nor on any of the other times when the politics of personal destruction poisoned its judgment. No, the Senate looks back on these things with shame -- and with the conviction that we cannot go down this road again.

“We know the Senate is better than this. We know the nation deserves better than this. By confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, this brilliant jurist will be charged with upholding the rule of law and honoring American justice. We must hold ourselves to that very same standard. We must seize the golden opportunity stands before us today. To confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will make us proud. And to reaffirm our own commitment to the justice that every single American deserves.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer Floor Remarks Ahead Of Cloture Vote On Judge Kavanaugh

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx.. 10:04 a.m.] regarding the cloture vote on  Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

 Madam President, from start to finish, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.

 The well was poisoned from the outset, when President Trump selected Judge Kavanaugh from a list of names pre-approved by hard right special interest groups, for whom the national interest is a trifling concern compared to repealing Roe v. Wade, cutting people’s health care, and achieving a partisan majority on the Supreme Court.

 The rot worsened when the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee shielded the bulk of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from the public, discarding decades of bipartisan precedent and thwarting norms of transparency and of fairness. And finally, the dam broke under the weight of credible allegations that Judge Kavanaugh committed a sexual assault in high school.

 In 2018, the Republican majority conducted a hearing that made the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 look fair by comparison. In this hearing, there were no corroborating witnesses on either side. No independent investigation of the facts to inform the questioning. They even hired an outside counsel to put the witness, Dr. Ford, on trial.

 Only at the 11th-hour urging of breakaway members of their caucus, Republicans submitted reluctantly to a one-week investigation of the allegations, an investigation which was then severely circumscribed by the White House.

 Our Republican friends blame us for this process, they’re always finding a straw man, but nothing could be further from the truth. First, they blame us for delay, knowing full well that Majority Leader McConnell has complete control of when nominees are brought to the floor. Leader McConnell could have moved this nominee two weeks ago, or one week ago. Democrats had no say, and don’t when it comes to what comes to the floor. But in each case, Leader McConnell couldn’t move the nominee forward because he was blocked by fellow Republicans, not Democrats, from moving forward. When it comes to complaining about delay, two words never come from our Republican friends’ lips: Merrick Garland.

 Republicans are also saying we engaged in a “smear campaign” or the “politics of personal destruction” with this nomination. In reality they’re using Democrats as a straw man, because what they’re really talking about is what Dr. Ford said. Democrats did not induce her to come forward, her conscience did. Are our Republican friends accusing Dr. Ford and her deeply held memories of what happened to her of a smear campaign? Of engaging in the politics of personal destruction? Because that’s who they’re actually blaming. They’re decrying her testimony and then trying to blame Democrats. I don’t blame them, they have a flawed nominee. They don’t want the focus on the nominee.

 When future Americans look back at these proceedings, let them draw no lessons from the Senate’s conduct here. Let them look back on this chapter as the shameful culmination of the scorched-earth politics practiced by the hard right in America – people who will stop at nothing to entrench an advantage on our nation’s courts. Let the confirmation process for Judge Kavanaugh be recorded as a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat, the ignominious end of bipartisan cooperation and consultation on the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

 And for what? For whom were Senate Republican leaders willing to discard all semblance of fairness to confirm?

 Judge Brett Kavanaugh, certainly a product of an elite education, but also someone with a hard right, conservative jurisprudence, far, far away from what average Americans believe.

 Why most Democrats opposed his nomination at the outset feels like ancient history, but let’s not forget that, most importantly, we strongly disagree with a number of Judge Kavanaugh’s views.

 He’s deeply skeptical of unenumerated rights, including a woman’s right to make fundamentally private decisions about her medical care. He’s deeply skeptical of the government’s role in protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. He’s deeply skeptical of nearly all rules and regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment.

 And the flashing red warning sign at the center of Judge Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence are his views on executive power and accountability. Somehow, this conservative judge and scholar of the Constitution sees at the heart of American democracy a president-cum-king; an executive who’s unaccountable to the laws he’s sworn to uphold; a head-of-state who, while in office, should be beyond the reach of subpoenas, criminal investigations, or civil investigations.

 This moment in American history demands deep skepticism about Judge Kavanaugh’s views on executive power, nominated as he was by an executive who disdains the constraints of his office, and who is, at this very moment, the apparent subject of investigations his Supreme Court nominee believes should be invalid.

 I met with Judge Kavanaugh for almost two hours and I asked him about all of those issues. His answers were constantly evasive and utterly unsatisfactory. It was déjà vu all over again in the first round of hearings, when Judge Kavanaugh deliberately avoided talking about his views on Roe, health care, presidential accountability, and more. There was no legal reason, rule, or logic that prevented him from being clear and saying what he thought. He was evasive because he knows that his views are deeply at odds with the progress America has made over the last century of jurisprudence, and at odds with what most Americans believe.

 His performance was not only unfair and frustrating to the Senate, it was unfair to the American people. When a nominee refuses to disclose their views, chances are you have a nominee whose views are far outside the mainstream of America, whether they be far right or far left.

 My colleagues on the other side of the aisle may not have as grave a concern about these views as we do, but let no American be surprised if Judge Kavanaugh becomes a decisive vote to restrict the rights and privileges of the American people while stretching the bounds of privilege for the current occupant of the White House.

 Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, ultimately, does not only encompass questions of ideology or credentials but questions of character. Here again, Judge Kavanaugh falls woefully short of what Americans expect and deserve in a Supreme Court justice.  He has repeatedly misled the Senate about his involvement in some of the most serious controversies of the Bush administration, including warrantless wiretapping of American citizens; our policy against torture; the theft of electronic records from Democratic Senators; and his involvement in the nomination of very controversial judges.

 Faced with credible allegations of various types of misconduct, Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility was again tested, and he continued to dissemble and even prevaricate about easily-refuted facts. Beyond the issue of credibility, Judge Kavanaugh presented to the Senate the bitterest partisan testimony I have ever heard from a candidate seeking the Senate’s approval. Whether they be for the bench or the executive branch.

 Now, there are many who think that what happened when Judge Kavanaugh was seventeen years old should not be dispositive. Even if you believe that, his actions at age fifty three, in terms of demeanor, partisanship, and above all credibility, should be dispositive.

 Judges at every level of the federal bench should be held to the highest standard of ethics and moral character. Judges at every level should be judicious and credible and independent. But especially, especially on the Supreme Court. I do not see how it’s possible for my colleagues to say with perfect confidence that Judge Kavanaugh has the temperament, independence, and credibility to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

 So I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: why Judge Kavanaugh?

 There is no dictate that you have to march blindly forward with a nominee when there are others available to you. There are many other judges who I’m sure conservatives would be happy to have on the court. I’d remind my colleagues: the seat that Judge Brett Kavanaugh aspires to fill was held by a Justice who assumed the bench after one nominee was voted down by the Senate and a second nominee withdrew his nomination.

 But the Republican majority has pressed forward blindly on Judge Kavanaugh, even when brave women came forward to speak truth to power. Why? For what cause? For the sake of winning? That is not reason enough.

 My colleagues on the other side: if you have doubts about Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility, about his ability to tell the truth, about his ability to be impartial and nonpartisan – no matter what you think of his jurisprudence or what he may or may not have done in high school and college – you should not vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

 So my friends, Democrat and Republican, for all the controversy, all the heavy-handedness of the process, all the hyperbole and vilification, of both sides, there is always hope that the Senate can save itself. We can salvage some decency, here at the end.

 If Judge Kavanaugh is rejected, President Trump will select another nominee, likely right-of-center, perhaps not to my liking, but without the cloud that hangs over this nominee, and we can proceed to consider that nominee in a much better, less partisan way.

 A bipartisan majority of senators -- considering fully the weight of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, record, credibility, trustworthiness, and temperament, considering fully the heartbreaking testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – can vote to reject Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and ask that President Trump send the Senate another name. For the sake of the Senate, of the Supreme Court, and of America. I hope, I pray, my colleagues will do so.